Parenting the Storm

You'd think that after nearly fifteen years of on-the-job parenting experience I'd have this whole thing down. I mean, how hard is it, really? I'm the parent, right? Together with my husband we're the big boss, the 5-0, where the buck stops.

But reality is harsh and messy and human beings are born with different desires and drives and in turn respond in ways we didn't plan.

I was a pretty decent kid. This is not to say that I didn't lie to my parents or do things I shouldn't have. True confession: yeah, I did all that. But when I became the appropriate age (translation: mom and dad couldn't ground me anymore) I confessed, told them how stupid I had been, how sorry I was to have lied, how I should have trusted them with my dirty laundry. And I assured my mom that I would one day be a better parent for it. I would keep my future kids from making the same stupid mistakes and dumb decisions like I had because we would have an open and honest relationship where they would never lie to me.  

In turn my mother hugged me then said with a layered tone in her voice that I wouldn't understand until much, much later, "Well, Missy, I can't wait for you to have children of your own one day." Her words made me feel warm and confident because surely what she meant was that I was right.

But that wasn't the case at all. It's just that my mom had learned the point of parenting a long time ago and knew, even with her adult child, that there were just some things her kids had to learn on their own.

Because what it has taken me a few decades, three kids and a significant loss of sanity to realize, is that parenting is not a one approach fits all kind of job. And that my childhood mistakes do not make me an unqualified expert on raising my own teenagers.

Parenting is a boat, no a dinghy, in a hurricane, winds whipping the water into dark, frothy waves that violently rock the boat while Sean and I straddle it, trying to keep our balance in the rain and the wind and the water that stings our faces. And the point of it all isn't to keep the kids safely in the boat, no, that analogy while tidy and cute, isn't the point of parenting at all.

The point, I am learning, is that teenagers are the ocean and the wind and the rain and the hurricane itself. The point is not to keep them tucked safely away from the elements because they are the elements. The point is to let them figure out who they are, what they stand for, what they are willing to fight for in the middle of the mess that is hormones and school and friendships and bad choices and mistakes, and yes, maybe even a lie or two.

The point is to help our kids become the stronger for it. And the point is to get through the stormy parts so that on those peaceful, glassy water days, we laugh, and love and learn to enjoy the ride together.



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